Monday, June 21, 2010

Today's three matches brought the 2010 World Cup to the halfway stage. 32 games down, 32 to go.

It's not been the greatest World Cup so far, but there's been some diamonds in there amongst the rough and some signs that the tournament is now starting to pick up steam.

The early group games are often cagey affairs, with excitement lacking. It's certainly been the case in a lot of the games this year. I did expect more goals than we have had to date though, I have to admit. The Portugal goalfest today will have certainly helped those that have a bet on the number of goals scored in the entire tournament.

Those with betting in mind though will be mightily pissed off at the number of coupon busters so far, but it's set all the groups up for a fantastic final round of group games this week and that can only help the tournament catch fire.

Of the 32 teams, only two have offically been eliminated (Cameroon and North Korea). Realistically though there are several others that have been read their last rites.

We can still harbour some hopes that big guns France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany and, of course, England might not qualify for the knockout stage. It's amazing that all six countries are not topping their groups (with the exception of Portugal who had Brazil to contend with). France and England aren't currently in the top two qualifying places in their groups and the rest face tricky last games.

Stuff having the best teams go through for the sake of quality football. I want upsets! And I think we're going to get them.

I think France, England and Germany will all crash out. Spain will do enough and Italy will probably squeak through but only just.

For the Italians it's going to be very tight. I backed Slovakia to do well, but they're going to have to find some form pretty soon for that to happen.

I would love Italy to go out early as their antics, along with a few other nations. have been disgraceful.

Certainly the biggest annoyance of the 2010 World Cup, even more than the swarming vuvuzelas, has been the diving and blatant cheating from players.

The amount of playacting has been disgraceful. So many players going down clutching their faces when nothing's gone near it. So many falling over trying to win free kicks and penalties. Players are constantly asking for cards for their opponents. Jersey and short pulling has gotten to epidemic levels.

The referees seem powerless, either through being clueless or not being able to clearly see situations and having to give players the benefit of the doubt.

It would suit FIFA better to be more concerned with addressing this issue than seeing players booked for celebrating scoring. It makes a mockery of the sport.

Some of the sendings offs, like Kaka's, are laughable, if it wasn't for the serious plight it puts their teams in. There's been some appalling refereeing though to add into that equation. I'd love to think it's going to get better as the tournament progresses, but it's hard to see that happening.

So as we're at the halfway mark, here's some highlights and thoughts from us so far:

- North Korea's goal against Brazil was a joy to see

- Not as much as the faces of the English players and pundits after the Algeria game though

- New Zealand have been the pluckiest team so far. If they can pull off a qualification then that will be one of the biggest shocks in the tournament's 80 year history

- Uruguay have such an exciting strikeforce, but it's a shame to see that they're still dirty, cheating bastards most of the time

- Probably not as bad as Italy, who have been shocking in every aspect of modern football

- Just when most of the African countries seem to have sorted out their goalkeeping problems, they now seem to have problems scoring and look like struggling big time. Ghana seem to be their big bright hope for the rest of the tournament

- Chile and Paraguay look like the two teams who could spring a few shocks along the way and be the unexpected teams to go deep

- Best referee of the tournament so far? Amazingly, from Uzbekistan. Ravshan Irmatov's handling of the England-Algeria game was tremendous, after having had the tournament's opener as well. He's put those of some bigger footballing nations to shame

- We're still going with our tip of Argentina to win the whole shebang

- We also said that Slovenia could be dark horses in their group. Let's hope that's the case come Wednesday!

This is the first World Cup I've had to watch in full outside of the UK, although I was over in the States for the 1994 tournament, but was back for the knockout rounds. Despite the early kick off timing problems, I've managed to balance a work routine around it so that I can see every game. My panini stickers even arrived today, so I'm all good to go for the next 32 games!

Hopefully we get lots of thrills, spills and excitement. It wouldn't be the World Cup without that mind you. C'mon the Argies!


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